Le Mystère Jazz de Tombouctou -review by Pieter FranssenJuly 2, 2012
Today’s post features a review written by Pieter Franssen of “Le Mystère Jazz de Tombouctou”, a new release on the Kindred Spirits label.
Dutch guest writer Pieter Franssen is a lifetime music lover who is celebrating his 40 years long career as a dj, starting in Amsterdam’s world famous venue Paradiso. As a (world) music writer and (disco/house)dance music expert he wrote for OOR, the leading Dutch music magazine, since 1973 amongst others. He also hosted a VPRO-webradio show ‘Globaal Kabaal’(2002-2005).
Pieter made music-related trips to Jamaica, U.S.A. Cuba, Morocco (Gnawa, Essouira), Kenya and South Africa (Capetown and Jo’burg hiphop 1994) and interviewed a.m.o. Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Keith Richards, many Dutch key dj’s and numerous musicians from Mali, Cuba and Brazil. He shares his borderless musical views since a long time with dj and Soul Safari founder Eddy De Clercq.
It is a very sour moment for the re-release of ‘Le Mystère Jazz de Tombouctou’, the holy grail among the eleven releases of the legendary Malian Kunkan label, just when in March 2012 extremist Touareg-rebels have taken over the mysterious Malian desert city Timbuktu and northern Mali and transformed the country into a kind of terrorist state.
(note editor*updated July 5th 2012) Not only is this brutal invasion an outright social disaster but at present time the occupiers destroy the cultural heritage of Mali; mausoleums, shrines, tombs and archives of ancient manuscripts, everything that does not fit in the belief of the terrorists is destroyed in the name of Islam, just as happened in Afghanistan.
The LP ‘Le Mystère Jazz de Tombouctou’ is without doubt the most precious, vital, curious and most sought after Malian album from the seventies and is now being re-released by the Dutch Kindred Spirit label.
The Kunkan (Voices) label was established in 1975 by Malian Minister of Culture Youssouf Traore to capture the music of several orchestras from different regions of Mali. Technician Bouboukar Traore proved himself a master in the recording phase when he placed the four microphones and recorded the instruments, particularly the congas.
It is hard to believe that a bunch of electricians, policemen, social workers, a nurse and a bassist / customs man were capable of creating this kind of musical landmark. The messages on these recordings are obviously carried with a holy fire.
The result is a magnum opus that sounds hypnotic, from the first to the last note, due to the constantly swirling guitar licks of the two brilliant guitarists; leader / guitarist Cheikna Sidi Mohammed, who joined the band as a singer in 1973 just as Bouboucar ‘Hamdallaye’ Toure who also came from Dirband Dire and Nouhoum Baby, who has been a soloist in the group since 1974.
The given combination resulted in fabulous, very tight playing but also the creative guitar-supportive horn section, consisting of veteran saxophonist Baba Napoleon in the front line and two trumpeters and the magisterial call-and-response singing -almost like the call of the muezzin- of Touareg Ag Milili complete the mesmerizing sound.
A number of hymns and ritual songs of the Touareg and Peuls peoples were recycled by Sidi Mohammed with young Tamasheks who have been in this team since the seventies.
As such the Orchestra made incredibly inspiring music, ranging from the desert-trance of “Teiduma” to really hypnotic anthems, all veined with handsomely arranged brass riffs and solos, instrumental outbursts of all kinds and almost unearthly Islamic hypnotic singing.
“Dina Waliji (Saints Of Islam)” served as a blueprint for a track on Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder’s Grammy Award-winning collaboration “Talking Timbuktu” in 1992. With an energy that explodes from each track this rather sublimely arranged desert suite is musically very uplifting.
“Apolo”named after the lunar project in 1969 is the song where the band presents itself and “Wale” is a track where the masons and builders of the mud mosque Sankoré are honoured with a truly majestic salute by the horn section. We hear traces of the Super Djata Band arrangements inspired by Bob Marley’s horn section.
Super driving congas, drums, guiro, a crazy almost free jazz sax solo by Napoleon and ecstatic singing instantly knock you out in “Leli”, a penetrating Peulh-story about hardships on a journey through the Sahel.
And from that moment on, the sound of Le Jazz Mystère captures the listener in an incredible musical and spiritual hold.
Le Mystère Jazz de Tombouctou